We’ve been very lucky that during our time in the States we’ve gotten to see some really amazing places, and some places that are truly unique. Casa Bonita was both, but also somehow a total mess… There really aren’t the words to describe the experience, but nonetheless we will do our best!
For those who don’t know Casa Bonita is a Mexican Restaurant for families near Denver that was made famous after it featured in an episode of South Park. It was already quite well known (for reasons that will become clear) but the South Park episode was extremely funny and portrayed it as a place of true lunacy. We’d been meaning to go for a while, despite the fact that the food is widely regarded as some of the worst in Colorado, so we mentioned it to Pete and Jonno who were both very excited to find out that it was a real place.
It does. It exists.
As you can imagine we did not have a lot of trouble spotting it from the road, and we were impressed right away!
We’d read a little about Casa Bonita before going, and the first thing that was surprising was the capacity. Casa Bonita seats over 1000 people at once, and the entrance to Casa Bonita is not unlike a theme park. We walked a little way to the first till, and placed an order for our meal. We then walked even further in order to pick up our meal, and then carried that over to a server who told us where to sit. Strangely the advice we’d been given from friends was to avoid actually eating anything that you ordered, and to instead just consider it the price of entry into Casa Bonita. If we absolutely did want to eat they suggested either ordering something not-Mexican (odd, for a Mexican restaurant) or ordering something so cheap you wouldn’t be disappointed. It became clear why when we saw our food appear through what we named ‘the food hole’:
Undeterred we carried our plates over to the server, and requested a table near the waterfall. Oh, did I mention? There is a freaking waterfall in the middle of the restaurant:
It’s no excuse for a waterfall either, it’s a ridiculous 30 foot high. The waterfall then leads into the diving pool, into which Cliff Divers jump every 15 minutes or so. Again, yes, you read that correctly.
We had a great timing watching Bo the cliff diver do his thing. There weren’t many people eating and Americans love participation so we had a great time yelling out our dive requests, although our lack of dive knowledge meant that the requests were generally either ‘front flip’ or ‘back flip’.
As promised the food was truly awful, and the very strong smell of chlorine from the pool wasn’t a big help. There was a lot of it though!
The highlight was probably the Sopapillas, which are little pastry pillows that you eat with honey. The flag on the table was excellent – you raised it if you wanted attention, or if you needed anything refilled. Here is Rob using the flag to cover his mouth so that he’s not tempted to even try and eat any more:
After the food came the true treat, which was exploring the restaurant itself. As I mentioned it’s very big, but also very much compartmentalized. It’s split across many levels and each area is decorated with a different theme.
It was very confusing, and there was much weirdness along the way. Sights that we witnessed included this random fake(?) dead body hidden in the mines:
This corridor, which had a list of previous employee names up on plaques:
Pete suggested that these may be the names of people who died carrying out their Casa Bonita duties, and having tried the food that was definitely a possibility.
After that weirdness we were granted a wonder – the view from behind the waterfall!
Rob was very excited, although he’d forgotten to let his face know:
After this brief flash of beauty we were treated to the true horrors of Casa Bonita, starting with the fortune teller!
Pete and Jonno bravely put a quarter into the machine and received their fortunes, which surprisingly were not ‘you will get severe food poisoning’ or even ‘help me, my soul is trapped in here’…
We then moved on to the puppet show, which mercifully was not playing when we were there:
This was next to this blatantly haunted, screaming tree
This all lead up to Black Bart’s Cave, which was actually pretty fun. It’s basically a dark, enclosed cave filled with spooky stuff that jumps out at you or spits you with air. We genuinely did scream a few times, and I think as a child it probably would’ve broken my fragile mind forever.
By this point the mixture of strong chlorine smell and extremely salty food meant that we all had headaches, so we decided that it was probably time to head out! That said, it was an extremely exciting afternoon, and we definitely recommend visiting if you get the chance 🙂